Research and Collections

From its beginning in 1836, the New York State Museum has been home to some of the nation’s leading scientists, including pioneers in archaeology, paleontology, ethnology, and botany. Its collections now rank among the finest in many fields and total more than sixteen million specimens, objects, and artifacts.

  • Three Sisters Diorama


  • moth


  • close up layers of rock


  • Cultural History


  • White basket

    Native American Ethnography

  • Cohoes Mastodon


Research at the New York State Museum today is as exciting as it is varied, with scientists and historians actively directing projects in biology, anthropology, geology, paleontology, and history. Research by staff represents one tangible way in which information about the natural and cultural histories of New York, and the world, is made available to the public. Research findings are presented in scholarly and popular publications, at professional meetings, in exhibitions, and in public programs.

Researchers throughout the world use the collections of the New York State Museum to address questions about New York's natural and human heritage. The Museum’s collections are made available to researchers and scholars and are also used in exhibitions and public programs. Participation in Museum collections curation and research projects is possible through internships and volunteer opportunities.

To explore the Museum’s Research and Collections Division, hover your mouse over the Research and Collections block at the top navigation bar. 

News Articles

Starks Knob and Lester Park graphic
Published March 26, 2024 | Geology

Two videos on classic geologic sites in New York are available from the Geological Society of America “Geoheritage” program. The videos, made by Drs. Ed Landing (New York State Paleontologist, emeritus) and Alexander Bartholomew (SUNY-New Paltz, geology department) feature two sites in Saratoga...

Dr. Taza Schaming assist with research in the NYSM Ornithology Collections
Published February 5, 2024 | Ornithology

Locally-based Ornithologist Dr. Taza Schaming was appointed as a Research Associate in 2023, and has been assisting Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, NYSM Curator of Birds and Mammals, in our specimen preparation lab, turning salvaged birds into research specimens. Taza is a Wildlife Ecologist at Northern...

Powell House Foundation
Published February 5, 2024 | Historical Archaeology

NYSM Historical Archaeologist Michael Lucas and his team were recently featured in the Times Union for their fieldwork and research leading to the identification of Albany-area farms owned and operated by African Americans during the 1800s.

Discover how the study of the artifacts...

Trash Talk
Published January 31, 2024 | Historical Archaeology


On Thursday, February 8 from 6-7:30pm, NYSM Historical Archaeologist Michael Lucas joins the New Amsterdam History Center for the online event, "Trash Talk: A Lively Discussion of 17th Century Refuse, Recycling, and the Reshaping of Manahatta's Shoreline." 

What was “trash” in...

Natasha Smoke-Santiago examines pottery rim sherds
Published January 22, 2024 | Native American Archaeology

The New York State Museum maintains its extensive material collections for the benefit of individuals and communities across the New York region and beyond. Increasingly, indigenous scholars, artists, and community members are accessing the NYSM's anthropology collections for insights into...

Objects from the NYSM Shaker Collection
Published January 17, 2024 | Social History

2024 marks the 250th anniversary of the Shakers coming to colonial America. The Shakers were a small sect of Quakers that started in Manchester, England in 1747. They were formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s First and Second Appearing. Because of the zealous fervor...

Devonian of New York
Published December 11, 2023 | Devonian Geology


The Devonian Period occurred between 419.2 million and 358.9 million years ago. Devonian-age rocks in New York State have been utilized by geologists, paleontologists, and educators to study the development of life, understand geological processes, and teach about the history of the...

Spiller Newspaper Weight Collection
Published December 7, 2023 | Cultural History

Mortimer Spiller was born in 1922 to Russian immigrants who settled in LeRoy, New York. Spiller’s college training in business and advertising was interrupted by service in World War II. After the war, he was eager to complete his education and put his degree into practice. In 1947, while...

Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) The Atlantic Cable Projectors, 1895
Published December 5, 2023 | Cultural History

Daniel Huntington (1816–1906)
The Atlantic Cable Projectors, 1895...

Published September 29, 2023 | Geologic Mapping

Geologists within the New York State Museum have been conducting geological mapping in partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for 40 years. This long-standing collaboration has helped the State Museum study and map the distribution of rocks and sediments across New York’s...

Archaeologists at work on a terrace above the Hudson River.
Published August 1, 2023 | CRSP

Archaeologists from the NYSM’s Cultural Resource Survey Program kicked off this year’s field season with a survey in the Hudson Highlands in an area overlooking the Hudson River not far from Manitou Mountain. This is within the traditional homeland of the Muh-he-con­neok, the People of the...

NYSM Bald Eagle
Published July 3, 2023 | Ornithology

Happy Fourth of July from the NYSM! This bald eagle, currently on display in Birds of New York Hall, is one of the oldest specimens from our collections and even pre-dates the discovery of the Cohoes Mastodon by sixteen years! The specimen, an adult male, was part of the personal collection of H...

Juneteenth Across New York State
Published June 12, 2023 | History

Although slavery in New York State was abolished on July 4, 1827, the institution of slavery in the United States did not officially come to an end for another thirty-eight years. On June 19, 1865, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil...

NYSM crew and volunteers sifting in late August 2019
Published May 11, 2023 | Bioarchaeology

In 2019, bones dating back to the late 18th century were uncovered at a Lake George Village construction site. For the past four years, NYSM bioarchaeology staff Lisa Anderson, Julie Weatherwax, and Alexandra DeCarlo have been working together with the DEC to learn more about the remains to help...

Cowrie Shells Moneta (left), Annulus (center), and a Reticulated Cowrie Helmet (right) from the NYSM Historical Archaeology Collection.
Published February 23, 2023 | Historical Archaeology

Billions of Moneta and Annulus cowries from the Indian Ocean were traded for enslaved people along the west coast of Africa from the 15th through 19th centuries. Much larger reticulated cowrie helmets, native to the warm waters of the Caribbean, were not traded for enslaved...

Madam C.J. Walker’s Glossine hair paste and an advertisement (NYSM Collection H-2010.45.30-31)
Published February 22, 2023 | Social History

Madam C. J. Walker (1867–1919) was a successful entrepreneur, businesswoman, philanthropist, and social and political activist during a time when both African Americans and women were not common in the world of business. In 1906, she started her own hair product business specifically for African...

Silver spoon from the Powell Farmstead with Hannah Elizabeth Powell’s (nee Kilbourne) initials.
Published February 7, 2023 | Historical Archaeology

Agriculture has been central to the cultural history of the Hudson River Valley from the first indigenous farmers to 17th-century Dutch farms, and finally through the development of modern mechanized farming during the 19th century. Regrettably, the role of free African American farmers in the...

Bowfin species: A&B - Amia calva from South Carolina, C - A. ocellicauda from Ontario.
Published December 12, 2022 | Ichthyology

Bowfin fishes are recognized as evolutionary relicts or ‘living fossils’ that historically were distributed worldwide, going back almost 150 million years and living alongside dinosaurs. These fishes retain many of the morphological traits of their fossil ancestors and are found only in the...

DNA Research in Ornithology at the NYSM
Published December 12, 2022 | Ornithology

Museum specimens are important sources of DNA, used by researchers to discover the evolutionary relationships among species. NYSM zoology curators save small samples of muscle and other tissues from the specimens they prepare for our collections. The tissue samples from fish, bird, and mammal...

Projectile Points from the McVaugh Collection
Published November 28, 2022 | Native American Archaeology

Over the years, the NYSM has received donations of very large archaeological collections numbering hundreds of thousands of specimens—but small collections can also be important. One such donation, modest in size but rich in content, was made to the NYSM in 2019 by the McVaugh family.